Practice Recap: Larson, Truex pace frenetic Sonoma Raceway practices

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr. led the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field in the weekend’s only practice sessions at Sonoma Raceway.

Practice 2

Californian Kyle Larson laid down a 94.389 mph. circuit to zoom atop the charts for Chip Ganassi Racing in final practice for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Coming off of his third-career Cup Series win at Michigan International Speedway, Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet was found within the top 10 in both of the day’s practice sessions.

“We were pretty decent in qualifying trim and I thought we made some improvements in race trim from first practice to second practice,” Larson said. “I thought it was a successful practice. You can always be better.  Forward drive is terrible here, so, working on that is a struggle, but felt like we made some gains.”

The winningest active driver at the facility with two wins, Kyle Busch ended the practice in second with a speed of 94.344 mph. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five, with Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex, Jr. completing the top 10.

While the first practice ran with little more than a couple spins off-course, the day’s final allotted track time was marred by multiple incidents.

Cole Whitt was the first to suffer an issue in the practice, sliding off-course with leaking fluids from a broken oil cooler in the session’s opening five minutes. Rookie Erik Jones ended an eventful day by rolling into the tire barrier in Turn 11, forcing his Furniture Row Racing team to a backup car.

Chase Elliott lost control of his Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet later in the session, spinning in Turn 10 and colliding with with the retaining wall. The Georgian becomes the second driver confirmed for a backup vehicle.

“Just made a mistake,” Elliott said. “It was really my fault.  I hate it for my teammates on the No. 24 team. They sure don’t deserve it.  They worked hard this past week to get this car ready to come out here a long way from home.  So, made a mistake and we shouldn’t be having that.”

The session – originally slated for 90 minutes – saw five minutes added to the timer to compensate for the delays.

In an impressive showing, Alon Day led the way for all newcomers to Sonoma, slotting in 23rd for the underfunded BK Racing. Day is attempting to become the first Israeli-born driver to compete in NASCAR’s premier series.

The Cup Series garage will return to Sonoma on Saturday for Coors Light Pole Qualifying at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Results, via NASCAR

Practice 1

Martin Truex, Jr. laid down a 94.587 mph lap to pace a frenetic opening practice session for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway.

The session’s quickest lap came for Truex in the final moments of the 115-minute session, pushing the Furniture Row Racing driver atop the charts in the first of two practice for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Denny Hamlin ended the session in second with a speed of 94.068 mph to lead the way for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin was the top driver in the Cup Series garage on road courses last season, tallying a runner-up result at Sonoma and a win at Watkins Glen International.

There were no massive incidents in the session, though a litany of small accidents occurred.

Elliott and brothers Austin and Ty Dillon each suffered solo spins or other trips off-course. Matt Kenseth suffered no errors on-track, but saw his session come to an early end when a mechanical issue befell his No. 20 Toyota. FOX Sports 1 reported that the Wisconsinite suffered a broken oil belt.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five, with Chris Buescher, A.J. Allmendinger, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano completing the top 10.

Kurt Busch, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon each saw less time in the session after a 15-minute practice hold for infractions at Michigan International Speedway.

Making his first laps at Sonoma, Jones suffered an additional issue shortly after heading on-track when he reported a flat left-front tire. The Furniture Row Racing rookie was ultimately able to nurse his No. 78 Toyota back to the garage without much issue and continue on.

Results, via NASCAR

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